Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Star Wars Chronology Project: Four Years In.

“Wisdom is the power to put our time and our knowledge to the proper use.” – Thomas J. Watson
I feel like time is my enemy, and in regards to the SWCP, and my fictional endeavour (which I’ll talk about a little later), it is.

This summer my days have been so filled from beginning to end that I have little time left for any “artistic” (I use the term loosely here) pursuits.  Which is ok, because I know my time is not being wasted. I know my time and knowledge is being put to its proper use.  It’s going to my wife, my children, my family, my friends, and my house (the last one is arguable).  I’m not sure how Thomas J. Watson would define “proper use”, but I have the feeling him and I don’t define it the same way.  Or maybe we do, who knows?

Anyhow, I bring the subject of time up because it’s a commodity I feel I have so little of this summer – time that’s just mine anyway.  I’ve had to carve out of my day little moments to write, which if you really want to write is tough.  Writing, for me anyway, requires a large block of undisturbed time.  Even as I write this, I had to wake up at 5 am to be able to sit down at my computer where no one demands my attention.  I think I should do this more often, but that means less sleep, which is not good for anyone, so maybe not.

There have been moments where I’ve been given time, but it’s time after I’ve given of myself, and that time is all but useless if you want to write.  All it’s good for is to catch your breath, and get ready for the next day.

Time, time, time.  I feel like I have so little of it.

Ok, so enough of that lamentation.  It’s time to look back at another year in the books.
Remarkably, I managed to put almost all of 32 BBY behind me, which is no small feat.  Once I get this bit of short story nonsense out of the way, I can go back to finishing off what I left of 32 BBY, and fill in some blanks from that year (Episode 1 Adventures).

My short story project is going well, even though I’d like to be further along than what I am.  I’ve got the bones of the narrative all laid out, and I’m now in the process of putting flesh to the bones so if I’m working top down I have the top half of the skull covered.  I continually oscillate between thinking the story is totally awesome to totally terrible.  I have to remind myself sometimes that my writing has always been for me and me alone.  I’m my intended audience.  If I like it then that’s all that matters, because ultimately, I’m not a commercial writer, I’m a hobby writer.  I feel like if I start to write in the hopes of other people approving of my writing then the love will be lost.  I’m not sure of this is a good attitude to have towards writing – I haven’t really reflected on it, but really, this whole project is my gift to myself, something I can look back on later with a bit of pride.  If others like what I write then that’s a nice bonus.  It’s a comfort to think that other people are rooting for me.

I really thought that four years in I’d be further along, but I’ve decided to call this the end of “1st year”.  What I mean is that if I’m pursuing my PhD is Star Warsology, and a PhD is typically four years, and really, I’m a part time student of Star Wars, then this project should take me another 12 years to complete – four real life years to one ‘Star Warsology Academic year’.  Make sense?  So, with this in mind, I’m considering my fictional project my end of the year paper, and you all are my professor.  It’s my big essay to demonstrate what I’ve accumulated and learned.  So when you read it, be critical, and give me an honest grade.

On that note, I know I said I’d hope to have it done by the end of the summer, but that’s not happening.  I think realistically before Christmas.  But know this – I will have it done.  I was reading some writing tips a few people posted to my Facebook, and the same tip kept coming up: Finish it!  So I’ve taken that bit of advice to heart.  Getting it done is the hardest part, I know this.  Make sure to prod me along too if you don’t mind, just drop the odd comment here and there and be like “Hey MKB, how the story coming along. I was thinking about your project and thought I’d just check in”.  That’d be nice.

Boy – it’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan, no?

I haven’t talked about the Disney acquisition of Star Wars on my blog, so just to give you my two sense of this, I think it’s overall a great thing, but here is my fear.  My fear is that in 2015 we are going to be given the movie we wanted back in ’99.  It’s going to be mind-blowingly awesome; however, it’s going to trample on all the canon of Star Wars post ROTJ. I really feel like there is this disconnect.  I don’t understand how Filoni and others talk about how the writers and makers of all things Star Wars of today are fans of the franchise, and then dismiss events from the EU, The Clones Wars being what I’m referencing here.  I’m still disturbed by Filoni’s comments from Star Wars Insider’s July 2012 issue where he basically says the movies and the Clone Wars are a parallel universe to the EU, the EU being the lesser of the two.  For me, the EU is the heart and soul of Star Wars.  The EU is the heartbeat of Star Wars.  The EU has unfolded, in real time (which is unprecedented from a literary standpoint – I cannot stress enough how remarkable this is), the mythology of America. The EU is all canon to me – even the parts that don’t work well together.  I like that it doesn’t all fit.  I talked about this in my write up on Terry Brook’s The Phantom Menace novelization – this is what gives Star Wars its mythological feel. Luke, Han, and Leia have all aged in almost real time.  I know I’m sounding like a super-fan right now, but to disregard the EU is to disrespect Star Wars itself.  The Star Wars universe is the most artistically democratic literary creation in existence today. So many unique voices tell its story, and mostly, these voices sing in unison.

I really hope the makers of our Star Wars today listen to the song of Star Wars post ROTJ.  I really hope this new song will keep with the rhythm and the beat of what’s come before it, and respect the chorus.  Though I anticipate that I’ll like what comes in 2015 – a good story with compelling characters, great visuals and all that – I think the price will be the EU.  This is my fear for Star Wars.

The good news is that I’ll be able to see for myself if this is the case in 2015, as my wife and I have decided to attend Celebration VII in Anaheim.  It’s still all very tentative, there are many hitches to this plan, but if things stay status quo until the end of 2014 I really think it’ll happen.  I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, and I think I’ve picked a good one to go to – right before the new films are released, along with the new show Star Wars Rebels coming out, which I’m really the most excited about.  Seriously, I’m more excited about the animated series than I am about the movies.  I guess I feel that the animated series has less of a chance of disturbing the EU than the films do, but really, such fear is mere conjecture.  Anyone else excited for this show?  Are we going to see Vader hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi Knights?  How totally awesome is that?

So when I confirm that I’m going to Celebration VII, and if you’re a reader of my blog and you’re also going to Celebration VII, and if you’re up for it, let’s meet for a beer.  We’ll geek out together over a draft and wings.  Drop me a line here, or send me your e-mail over at thefore.net boards (my handle there is JarenJade) and we can begin to organize.

Speaking of geeking out, another bit of Star Wars news from my life is that I’ve decided the run the Star Wars fan club at my school this year.  There are some real Star Wars fans among the student body, so I’ve decided to get the club up and running.  We’re going to start with a chronological viewing of the Star Wars saga, so maybe you can help me out here.  We’re going to watch everything, so here is my list:

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars Season 1-5
The Clone Wars (Tartakovsky and Gilroy version)
Revenge of the Sith
The Droids and Ewok animated series (Does it go here?)
A New Hope
The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
Caravan of Courage (Does it go here?)
The Battle of Endor (Again, does it go here?)
If you have a comprehensive list of a chronological viewing of these please share.

As it is, happy anniversary, and until next time, may the Force be with you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Writing Fiction

Hello Everyone,

Usually by this time in July I’m about three of four posts into the SWCP, as summer is when I get a lot of work done.  But this summer I’m putting the project on the back-burner for a bit to focus on some fan-fiction that has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.  After reading nothing but Star Wars for four years I feel I want to contribute my little bit narrative to the ever expanding mythology.   When I’m done I’ll create another blog and post-up what I’ve written for your perusal.   

I’m  currently in the process of getting the story down – It’s taken hold of my imagination and has not let me go. Right now I’m simply trying to work it out of my system. 

Since the end of June I’ve been reading my way through The Living Force sourcebook in preparation for the Eye of the Sun trilogy, but every time I sat down to either read the sourcebook or write my thoughts on it I immediately opened my short story file and began working on that, so I thought, forget it –  I’ll go where my creative energy is taking me and I’ll work on the project when this story is out of the way.

I’m not sure when I’ll have it done.  It might take the summer to complete, but I hope to have it done before then.  With three little ones at home and my summer already booked with day trips to the beach and afternoons spent at the splash-pad I'm not sure when it'll get done.  Hopefully before the end of the month - that's time time-frame I've set for myself.  What is more, finding time to actually sit down and write is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Everyone wants a little piece of dad.

Not to worry though– the project will continue on, I’m just going to explore this deviation in creative energy for a while.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

32 BBY: Save the Mantaris!

After reading through Save the Mantaris! mission, I’ve realized that chronologically it works better if it comes before Peril in the Ionosphere.  Since this adventure is so short, let me reproduce it here:

This adventure idea, a companion to Secrets of Naboo, takes place in and around the Civic Spaceport in Theed. The Gungans are preparing to launch an effort to colonize one of Naboo's moons, using the Mantaris transport, a spacecraft developed in a joint effort between the Naboo and the Gungans. Queen Amidala, the ruler of the Naboo, and Boss Nass, the leader of the largest Gungan community both want this project to succeed, as they see it as the dawn of a new era of cooperation between their two peoples.

However, anti-Gungan (well, anti-alien in general) terrorists seek to sabotage the mission. Their first step is to kill a Gungan technician and kidnap one of the lead Naboo engineers. The evidence seems, on the surface, to point to disgruntled Gungans. A faction among the citizens of Theed that still considers the Gungans barbarians, rushes to judgment. The Gungan contingent in Theed blames these Naboo, claiming they are attempting to manufacture an excuse to wage war. The terrorists' plan is working like a dream.

Enter the heroes.

The heroes are investigators (either from Naboo or a Republic delegation) charged with finding out what really happened, as well as rescuing the Naboo engineer. After this has been accomplished, they are assigned to ensure that the Mantaris reaches the moon and starts its colonization mission safely. During this duty, they must prevent the ship from sabotage on its maiden voyage - tampering that could destroy this historic vessel.

Like I said, I think these events make more sense if they happen before Peril in the Ionosphere.  After successfully rescuing the Nabooian engineer (maybe it’s Kharl Vanned or Sakme Kelene), figuring out which faction is responsible for the kidnapping and murder, and perhaps *thinking* they have saved the Mantaris from terrorism, do the heroes then board the “shuttle” (as it is called in Peril in the Ionosphere) only to have it attacked, leak kyvalon-4 gas, wherein they now have to subdue the homicidal Captain Worlhp.  I think this order of events makes sense.

On a side note, I mistakenly referred to the Mantaris in The Gungan Frontier as the tribubble bongo.  It turns out that the Mantaris is its own kind of ship, specifically designed by Gungan and Naboo engineers for the colonization of Ohma D’un.  Also, it turns out there was more scientific expertise in this effort than I had originally thought.  Graf Zapalo, the Master of Sciences in the Naboo Royal Advisory Council, led this mission.  I suppose The Gungan Frontier couldn’t have Graf Zapalo as its hero, or the kiddies (and everyone else who played the game for that matter) would be like “Zapalo who?”.  But if this game were to make some sort of comeback, I think it would be really neat if it did feature Zapalo as its protagonist.

Anyway, I still think it’s neat how all these sources have intertwined with each other.  The narrative it has weaved is quite intricate.

For my next post I’m going to look into a series of RPG sources that have always been on the periphery of my RPG knowledge.  The Living Force Campaign is something I remember seeing a lot of back in 2001.  It was a prominent feature on the RPG shelves of the comic stores I used to frequent, so I’m looking forward to delving into its material.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

32 BBY: Peril in the Ionosphere

Before I began writing my reactions to this source, I wanted to include a brief synopsis of this adventures’ events from Wookieepedia, but Wookieepedia has nothing on Peril in the Ionosphere, so I guess it’s up to me to write something for posterity (if any intrepid wookieepedian wants to cut and paste my summation with a little more detail, here’s your chance to add to the online encyclopedia).   

The adventure begins after the events of The Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, and the heroes are approached by a Nabooian official to help colonize one of Naboo’s moons.  The heroes agree and board a shuttle to the moon piloted by an Ithorian named Captain Worlhp.  Once on board the heroes meet Professor Celaar, an admired Nabooian botanist, Kharl Vanned, a young Nabooian graduate from the Theed school of Technology and Engineering, and Sakme Kelene, herself a recent grad of the Theed school of Technology and Engineering.  The crew begin to ascend into the atmosphere when things go terribly wrong.  The ship lurches as if it’s been hit by something, and begins to leak kyvalon-4 gas, which, hilariously, makes Ithorians temporarily homicidal maniacs when exposed (I seriously laughed out loud at this point.  How funny is this?).  The heroes have to subdue Captain Worlkp, all the while trying to avoid potentially life threatening situations, like repairing the life support system, repairing the navigation system, repairing the kyvalon-4 gas leak, dealing with blaster shots that miss and breech the hull, and then landing the shuttle.  If the heroes survive Captain Worlhp offers his sincerest apologizes, and the young engineers offer to repair the heroes’ ship anytime they want – IF the heroes survive.

What makes Peril in the Ionosphere an incredibly neat source is that it weaves together two disparate sources: The Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, an RPG, and The Gungan Frontier, a video game.  As it says at the start of this adventure:

“The adventure begins as the heroes are boarding the doomed shuttle. If you are using this adventure as part of an ongoing campaign begun with the adventures in the Star Wars: Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, create a scene in which a Naboo official approaches the heroes with an offer to join the Naboo/Gungan effort to establish a colony on Naboo’s water rich moon.” (Star Wars Gamer 1, pg. 75)

Here is yet another example of the relationality, interconnectedness, and interdependence found within the Star Wars mythos.  In this particular case the history of Star Wars connects, fluidly, between two different mediums and their respective creators to make a larger cohesive narrative (for a brilliant look at this concept in practice take a look at Abel Pena and Rich Handley’s article at starwars.com titled The Droids Re-Animated, Part 1) .  Honestly, here is a broad sketch of a thesis that’s been knocking about my brain for a while: Intertextuality and the Star Wars Expanded Universe: An investigation into how the theories of Barthes, Krestiva, Saussure, and Bakhtin can be applied to the larger mythology of Star Wars as it appears over many literary and non-literary mediums.  But what I’m really trying to do is formulate the bigger answer to the “so what?” question.  What I mean is this: so I demonstrate that the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a giant example of intertextuality at work – so what?  What does this mean for literature as a whole – if anything?  What does this mean for fantasy literature – if anything?  What does this mean for contemporary American literature – if anything? I have yet to come up with an answer to these questions.  I don’t think it’s enough to demonstrate that the Star Wars Expanded Universe is intertextual, as neat as an investigation like that may be.  The idea has to go further, but I’m not sure where.  Any literary theorists out there get what I’m driving at?  Your thoughts on this would be welcome, even if you think the idea is bust, I can at least put it to rest.

Anyway, back to Peril in the Ionosphere: this adventure is intended for the characters from The Invasion of Theed Adventure Game, namely; the Jedi Padawan Rann I-Kanu, the solider Garak, the scoundrel Arani Korden, and the Wookiee scout Rorworr (the four main characters from the Smugglers of Naboo adventure).  It could also be played with Sia-Lan Wezz, also a Padawan, Deel Surool the scoundrel, Toba the Gungan scout, and Dane, one of Amidala’s handmaidens in training.  When it comes to one of the characters being able to subdue Captain Worlhp, I’d put my money on Rorworr being able to do it, or maybe Rann or Sia-Lan forcing pushing him and keeping him in a corner of the shuttle.

On that note, I want to highlight an awesome blog post featured on theforce.net where the blogger Mark Elwood did some meticulous work and managed to sort out which Jedi survived Order 66.  In relation to this source, it seems Sia-Lan did survive the initial massacre, but was later eliminated by Vader. I look forward to Star Wars: Purge, where this battle is depicted.   

I suppose after all the action the heroes decide their time is best spent elsewhere, leaving only poor Obi-Wan or Queen Amidala to colonize the moon .  At least one of my objections to The Gungan Frontier was addressed, and in fact the Gungan and Naboo delegation did send up qualified people to colonize the water rich satellite. 

For my next post I’m going to look at another source which ties these two events together, Save the Mantaris!  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.